I found an old notebook I’d written in it shortly after I’d been hit by a bus. At the time I had a nasty head injury, but somehow I jotted these thoughts down in a notebook which I then abandoned. The thoughts come from a ten years or more earlier than when I wrote them down. They come from a time when I had a private practice as a clinical massage therapist in Colorado, working mostly with accident and injury clients. I was in constant awe of how astonishingly beautiful human bodies are, what a wonder of construction.
The brain works in funny ways.
Fourteen bones make up the face. Eleven of them meet in the eye socket, the orbicularis oculi, which I carelessly smashed on the pavement. I vaguely remember the docs deciding not to do surgery because the bones are too fine to manipulate even when you haven’t fractured them into a spiderweb.
That scoop of bone is hinged for movement, flexibility, to allow nerves and blood through, for directly talking to the brain. It’s amazing our eyes aren’t on stalks.
It ought to act like the limbic system, which provides visceral and immediate reactions. The connection to the brain is so physically close, especially the area that acts as the switching center of reason and emotion, whence some signals travel up to the cortex for further processing.
My vision hasn’t been right – or stable – since.
Ah, the scapula, my favorite bone. If we had wings they’d anchor here. Seventeen muscles do, any one of which can give you a headache. Push and something will hurt. It’s not supposed to, but our sedentary lives don’t let fly this wingèd wonder. Few bones have such variety: the sharp inner edge, the flaring ridge, the smoothly convex sub-surface. Now there’s a nest of pain and betrayal. I know several ways to talk to that muscle and you’re not going to like what any of them have to say. It’s the back of your heart, it’s the brace for impact, it’s the pulling of things toward you. Nothing feels so much like settling your wings as learning to pull your shoulder blades together and down.
Ever stop to wonder why they’re called blades? In a well-muscled back you really can’t tell. It’s the weak, underformed, unanchored back that can let the wings fly off, the blades be truly sharp – it’s a wonder they don’t slice themselves free the moment the person reaches to scratch their back or fasten a bra behind them.Your arms dangle loosely, lightly. The power comes from the back.
Hawthorne wrote a story about an artist looking for the unforgivable sin. The sin was violation of another person’s heart. You know how artists are. We carry that pain; I can count your heartbreaks by exploring your scapula with my hands.
What a good massage therapist knows
There are senses beyond the five. I use them, but I have no language for them. Soft tissue therapists, the good ones, know what I’m talking about. We each experience receiving the information in different ways, but we all can identify what it is, and where our hands were. Some talk about seeing color, or feeling temperature change. For me it felt like vision, but not by my eyes. My eyes have never been that great anyway. It was startlingly accurate. “So,” I would want to say, “Someone used to hit you between here and here with a leather belt, about an inch and a half wide, but never used the buckle; you were between eleven and about twelve and a half. Definitely stopped by the time you were thirteen.” And it would be true.
For me it was like seeing echoes. The bodies under my hands remembered full well where they’d been. Bodies remember everything, you really are the sum of your experiences. Their owners had frequently learned to absorb the static, forgetting to hear the whole bandwidth of their body’s messages. Part of my job was to sort the signals out – long after I left linguistics I never stopped being a translator – to learn what might merit conscious attention by the static-bearers, and what I could discuss subcutaneously and possibly smooth out. I travelled under breathing to change some of the patterns I found.
If you truly want to feel, go see a good massage therapist.
In acupressure school we never broached how to talk about this with each other or with clients. Part of why I went on to teach in the school I did was because they did talk about it, partially to teach the new holders of these magic powers to know when to hand their clients over to a trained psychotherapist.
Of course, sometimes, the exploration reminded the client quite consciously what was what. It was important – so important – to get students to understand they were not trained psychotherapists and had no business trying to be one. Also, what to do when their clients shared what their bodies were reminding them about. Boundaries. Humility. Good words.